If you’re not familiar with the San Juan Islands, they’re a small chain of four islands a ferry ride away from Seattle in the gorgeous North West. Accustomed as I am, to the golden state of California, the more emerald, dramatic Washington State, which benefits from a far more frequent and heavier rainfall than its southern cousin, feels quite different. On a recent trip to stay in Friday Harbor, which is the main village on San Juan island itself, we dropped in at the Duck Soup Inn for dinner.
Touted as one of the island’s best restaurants we were excited to sample the local produce. The restaurant is in a woodsy setting about a 15-20 minute drive outside of Friday Harbor. Overlooking a green, lush pond, inside the quaintly-named, Duck Soup Inn, is cabin-like and rustic. You can imagine the place being snug and cozy, heated by a wood fire on a chilly, rainy day.
All the main dishes come complete with soup and salad so you don’t really need to order an appetizer, although we were tempted to try a couple. Okay several. Soup of the day was cauliflower and it was pleasingly smooth and pretty. The chips on the salad were quickly devoured, but the salad could have been properly tossed vs. just having the dressing drizzled over the top.
The barbecued oysters ($15) were fresh and briny, and I wanted to try the house-smoked albacore paté ($14). Sad to say, while the paté dish looked very pretty, accompanied as it was by crunchy fresh vegetables like pink radishes and bright carrots, it didn’t really come together from a taste standpoint. The paté itself was a little sinewy and grey to look at it. The flavor just wasn’t there and it was a tad chewy. Disappointing.
I’m a sucker for Brussels sprouts and these, promised as they were, fried with hazelnut “dust”, and accompanied by lemon aioli, sounded too good to pass up ($10). It seems that the trick to making Brussels amazing is a high heat so they caramelize around the edges and have a little crunch. Again, they didn’t quite hit the mark. Close, but no cigar.
With three children in tow, we will thrilled to hear that child-sized portions were available. Not surprisingly the fried chicken with parsnip waffles attracted their attention, as did the steak Diane with grilled asparagus.
Hard to eat at the Duck Soup Inn without eating duck, so my cousin willingly obliged. Served with slow cooked beets and a cucumber apple salad, the duck was nice and pink and juicy to boot ($34).
The desserts were delicious and pretty and probably the favorite part of the meal, from my point of view anyway. The chocolate pot de creme was topped with a generous dollop of fresh whipped cream and the brittle on the side brought a nice crunch. The fried donut balls came with a lovely chocolate sauce, and while very sweet, soon disappeared.
Based on our other dining experiences on the island, this probably is the best option for a special occasion or treat. While there wasn’t a consistent level of quality and flavor, those that delivered were worth the trip.
You can find the Duck Soup Inn at:
50 Duck Soup Lane, Friday Harbor, WA
Tel: (360) 378-4878